A discussion we’ve had a few times on Photobookgirl.com’s Facebook fan page is about what to do with all those photos you’ve amassed in your hard drive. Before digital, you were likely in one of two camps: 1) those who printed out their photos (and left them in the envelope they came in), or 2) those who slipped them into photo albums or scrapbooks. Now that memory cards allow us to snap away at will without a thought to processing costs, I bet you have way more photos languishing on your hard drive than you ever had stacked up in shoeboxes.
But, with digital photos (and videos) comes another problem – what to do to prevent losing them to hard drive failure, accidental deletion, or natural disaster?
Option #1: At Home Storage – External Hard Drive Back Up Plus Burn DVDs
When I want to get photos off my memory cards, I upload my photos to Lightroom and make an additional archive copy of the files to a separate folder on my computer’s hard drive. Even though it’s probably not necessary for me to do the second backup on my desktop as Lightroom (and iPhoto) store an original, unedited version of all my photos, for some reason started doing this and I can’t stop!
Both copies are then backed up to an external hard drive via my Mac’s automatic backup (called Time Machine). I also bought another hard drive recently that I intend to use as additional backup for my photos so I can store it offsite (at my parents’ home) in case of flood, fire, or theft. I have also burned DVDs as backup in the past, but that’s hard to keep up with. I’m probably a few years behind in burning DVDs, but that’s an option. You can also store DVDs offsite.
- Fixed cost (no monthly charges);
- DVDs are cheap ($.02 to $.03 cents each for 4.7GB discs if you buy 100 discs)
- External hard drives are relatively inexpensive and go up to 4 terabytes now (1TB drive is about $80.00; 4TB drive is about $200.00)
- It’s convenient and you retain all control
- You have to remember to do the backup (unless it’s automated);
- External drives can crash and data can be irretreiveable;
- DVDs can deteriorate and become unreadable over time;
- Offsite backup has to be done manually (making a duplicate copy to store at a location away from home)
Since I’ve only been backing up my photos to storage media in my home, I’ve been wondering for some time now about the options for storing my photos online. I don’t consider myself an expert on this topic, but hopefully through this series of posts we can explore the possibilities together. Not every possible company will be reviewed, but I picked some that had been mentioned by some PBG readers and some that appeared to be pretty popular during my research. I thought I’d share this info with you – no reason to let this research go to waste! One thing I have to rant about is why sites make it so hard to glean basic information from their sites! Anyway, let’s see if I can help collect some of this info for you.
Coming soon will be Part II of this series on photo sharing sites and Part III will explore online file storage a/k/a “The Cloud”. If you have any thoughts about this series, feel free to comment below! Would love to hear your thoughts and how you are currently backing up your photos.
Very similar to what I do:
– have 2 backup drives which rotate monthly between being at home and being locked at work. This means if all else fails, I’ll only lose a month of photos. Until photos exist on both back ups, they remain on the memory card.
– I copy the entire iphoto library in addition to the photo file folders. This way if my iphoto crashes, etc, I can easily restore all the pictures with all the iphoto metadata. Would hate to lose all the hours of adding face names, tags and ratings!!
I used to use an online backup but once I started using my DSLR more, especially to capture video, I ran out of space too quickly. Even just updating the online photo storage would take a long time.
I had a bad photo loss several years ago so I’ve been militant about backups since!
Thanks for writing about your workflow! That’s very helpful to know. Yes, video is a big monster in taking up space! I’m trying to figure out what works best for me and doing these posts and the research behind it has been helpful. What do you think about hard drive life being about 4 to 5 years max? Do you or plan to replace your hard drives over time?
The space they take up is immense -it’s a good motivator to delete the bad pics/video! (tho I’m always, always behind on editing / deleting / tagging)
I definitely plan on replacing hard drives over time, and I’m hoping with the every-two-month rotation I’m on, I’ll notice when the hard drives start to act up.
As another solution, I’m also looking into getting a blue-ray disk burner and burning photos to blue-ray dvds, which can hold so much more than a standard dvd. Before I do that though, I want to make sure I’m only copying the good photos / videos, so I need to continue slogging through deleting bad pics…
The good news is, the technology for storing backups continues to get cheaper and smaller and better!
Yes, I have a lot of photos that aren’t that good that I’m sure I can leave out of the backup. I use iPhoto and Lightroom and both have a way to flag photos. Lightroom also has these filters you can apply to your photos to help organize them. I flag the ones that I like so I could possibly just do an export of that subset for backup to the cloud. I just found an old DVD backup I did 3 years ago and it does already have problems accessing the disc. There are some bad sectors apparently. I agree that storage is getting cheaper, so hope the prices go down all around!
Jesse Wayne says
I won’t go into the details, but I need a Lightroom3 expert to locate my book photos in my computer, import them into LR3, so that I may add captions to the 500+ photos. To no avail, I have checked with my computer gurus, placed adds on Craig’s List and made requests to all who had ever heard of LR3. Can you help me?
I think this article may help you. It will differ if you’re on a Mac or PC, but you’ll see in the article where your photo files are stored. http://digital-photography-school.com/where-are-my-lightroom-files/ Best!
I have been reading your posts and blogs for hours now! Wish I’d discovered them earlier as you would have saved me much time spent learning a few things the hard way. Anyway, I have what I feel may be a bit of a stupid question. I have fairly recently changed from PC to Mac and am still learning. You mention in this post that you download to Lightroom or iPhoto, but also save an archive copy of the files to an external hard drive. How do you do that? Also, what is the difference between iPhoto and Lightroom?
Thank you so much for all your work and sharing.
Hi Alex, Lightroom is a more powerful tool than iPhoto. You can make a lot more finer adjustments to your photos than you can with iPhoto. Before I would need to bring a photo into Photoshop for finer tuning, but with Lightroom I rarely have to do that anymore except to do layering etc. It took me a while to get Lightroom but it was well worth it. In terms of saving, I now have a two automatic backups of my internal hard drive and the saving my photos in the cloud as well through Crashplan. But if you want to do an archive copy, you just select “export as catalog” (in the File menu). That will preserve all the photo edits you have made. This article was really helpful to me: http://digital-photography-school.com/understanding-the-lightroom-catalog-and-file-management-system/ Best!